Even after a bad round at the Masters, Tiger Woods says he’s pleased just to have the chance to play after fearing his career might be over six months ago.
The 14-time major champion and world number 103 fired a second-round 75, 3-over par, in Friday’s second round to stand on 4-over 148 after 36 holes at Augusta National.
That’s 13 shots adrift of tournament leader Patrick Reed. It’s only one shot inside the cut line, which Woods flirted with before making birdies at the par-5 13th and 15th holes and closing with back-to-back pars.
“It was me,” Woods admitted. “I didn’t hit the ball very good.”
Four-time Masters winner Woods has been cheered at every tee box and supportive fans have roared their devotion at every opportunity as “Tigermania” made a comeback this week at Augusta National.
It’s the first Masters for Woods since 2015 and the first major since he missed the 2015 PGA Championship cut due to nagging back pain that eventually forced four operations, the most recent a spinal fusion that appears to have helped Woods find competitive form.
Considering Woods was wondering during stages of his debilitation if he might ever walk normally or play with his children properly again, being fit enough to finish in the top-five at two Masters tuneups last month was a major achievement.
“Putting it in perspective, six months ago I didn’t know if I’d be playing golf,” Woods said. “Forget playing at the tour level, I didn’t know if I ever be playing again.
“But it’s incredible to have the opportunity again, to still come out here and play this golf course. Now I know I’m on the weekend.”
Woods, restricted to only a Champions’ Dinner appearance the past two years at the Masters, will play alongside England’s Ian Poulter in Saturday’s third round and take his best shot at a charge up the leaderboard from his share of 40th place.
“Even though I’m a lot behind, if I play a special weekend, shoot two rounds in the mid 60s, you never know,” said Woods.
The former world number one last broke 70 in both weekend rounds in 2001 to win and complete the “Tiger Slam” of four major triumphs in a row.
“If I can drive like I did today, feeling wise, and hit those shots, give myself a chance, and if I clean up my iron play, I’m hitting so many beautiful putts right around the hole,” Woods said. “If I get off to a quick start and get it rolling, get some momentum going, which I haven’t had so far…”
He didn’t finish the thought. Those were a lot of ifs.
But at least he knows he’s fit enough to play the weekend, no matter what he shoots.
“The amount of training I’ve done and the amount of work we’ve done in the gym, it has paid off,” Woods said.
“It has given me the opportunity to keep my legs and my core strong, to help me protect my back, but also to handle this grinding.”